The multi-national Tornado interdictor strike (IDS) aircraft remains one of Europe's most important warplane. The various different attack, reconnaissance and defense suppression versions have played major roles during recent operations over former Bosnia and Yugoslavia, and Iraq. Development of the Tornado by the UK, West Germany and Italy begun in 1968, with the first flight by a prototype in 1974 and service deliveries beginning in 1979.
The RAF's current force comprises eight frontline units that are primarily assigned the conventional long-range interdiction/overland attack role. The also have specialized missions that comprise maritime attack (GR.1B), defense suppression and reconnaissance (GR.1A).
Since 1999 the RAF has received GR.1s upgraded to GR.4 standard with new cockpit displays, compatibility with thermal imaging airborne laser designator pods for autonomous precision guided munitions delivery, integration of night vision goggles with an upgraded forward-looking infra-red and an enhanced self-defense suite. The reconnaissance-configured GR.1As are similarly being upgraded as GR.4As.
The Luftwaffe has 276 IDS aircraft currently assigned to five wings. The aircraft went through a comprehensive mid-life update similar to the RAF's GR.4 programme that also added Litening targeting pods and towed radar decoys. New weapons include BLU-109 and GBU-22 Paveway III laser guided bombs, KEPD 350 Taurus tactical cruise missiles and IRIS-T self-defense air-to-air missiles.
The Marineflieger currently has a wing with around 50 IDS aircraft assigned conventional attack, anti-shipping (with Kormoran anti-ship missiles), defense suppression (with HARMs) and reconnaissance missions.
The Italian air force has three fighter-bomber IDS groups, one of which is assigned the anti-ship role with Kormoran missiles. Italy is converting 15 aircraft to IT ECR standard with dedicated electronic equipment and HARMs for the defense suppression role.
Saudi Arabia was the only export customer with surviving of 96 aircraft assigned to three units, one of which operates 12 recce-configured Tornados. Recently Saudi Arabia signed a contract to upgrade around 80 aircraft.